When we moved into our little house almost eighteen months ago there was a beautiful Weeping Willow tree in our front yard. Last spring it flourished and for half the summer was the glory of our lawn. Then, sometime in late summer, it began to lose its leaves and turn brown. No matter what we tried we couldn’t stop it from shriveling up and becoming a ghost of its former self. We hoped it would bounce back after winter but each time I’d check for signs of life there were none to find. It was dead and we were living in denial. Yesterday, I was able to push it over with my hands and it broke off at the base without a fight.
Last night, Good Friday evening, I sat by a fire being fed with the dead tree. As it burned I listened to, reflected upon and prayed over the familiar story of the Master’s crucifixion, death and burial. I thought about his followers’ denials of knowing him and their pledges of fidelity and courage in the face of persecutions wilt and die in frightening reality.
Denial. Like the tree, and the disciples, we are able to fool ourselves much of the time. Usually it takes death to reveal our delusion. The death of a dream, a job, the idea of our invincibility, our elusive control, a loved one or the myriad of other illusions we grab onto and trust in to make us feel safe and sane reveal a truth about us.
When these are taken away and our denial is unmasked what are we left with? This may be the greatest, most important question of all.